Experiment Zero

Jerri woke up to the fact that she was dreaming again. She stood in front of a grill tending to sizzling, delicious-smelling meat. Smoke billowed around her and she could feel the hot sun on the back of her neck. Jerri did not have any control, that was part of what convinced her they weren’t just dreams. She needed to wait for her view to change from the ribs and sausage to something more interesting. Then Jerri heard a now familiar voice.

“Hi,” the woman said to Jerri’s right. She felt her body jump as her vision spun around in the direction of the voice. Jerri caught a glimpse of a large, fenced-in back yard before she saw a short, pale, dark-haired woman in a black suit. The same one she’d been seeing every night for the past week and a half.

The first time Jerri saw the strange woman she appeared out of nowhere and attacked. Jerri woke up startled but did not give it much thought until it happened again the next night. Both times Jerri woke up before she saw everything, and since then she forced herself to wake up as soon as she saw the stranger. Sometimes she showed up sooner than others.

“Who are you?!” Jerri heard herself ask. It was an odd sensation feeling your mouth move without doing it intentionally. Golden stars glowed in the woman’s eyes and she smiled at Jerri.

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said and took a step closer. Jerri’s hand raised a long barbecue fork and extended it outward. The woman shook her head and extended a single finger to touch the tip of the fork.

“You don’t need that,” she said. Jerri watched the fork melt completely under the woman’s touch and was glad when her hand let it go; it was starting to get warm. “I just want to talk to you,” she said.

Does she mean it?” Jerri wondered. Thinking back she’d been too frightened to see what happened to the others. She had no control over her power so it did not mean anything that she didn’t visit them anymore. For all she knew they were totally fine. “But what does she want?” she was curious why the stranger was pestering other versions of herself.

“What? What do you want?” Jerri’s mouth asked.

Hah, nice timing,” Jerri giggled to herself.

“Not you,” the stranger shook her head again. She stepped closer and looked directly into Jerri’s eyes. Jerri could clearly see the bright golden stars around each of her pupils. “You,” The woman said. She reached up and placed a hand on Jerri’s, host body’s shoulder. “And to do that I need you to still be here when I touch her.” She winked an eye at Jerri. “Race you.”

Jerri forced herself awake. Her eyes shot open and she sat up in bed.  The stranger stood at the foot of Jerri’s bed and smirked.

“I win. I didn’t expect you to be so young,” she added. Despite her confusion at the situation, Jerri felt her honor was attacked.

“I’m 14, it’s not like I’m a baby,” she said. As she spoke she tried to show the words were true. She sat up straighter in the bed and tried to maintain a calm, ‘adult’ demeanor. “Why are you in my room?” she asked. The woman grinned.

“You’re just like her,” she said wistfully. “I’m in your room because I started noticing you. You started appearing more often during my pick-ups and I wanted to find out what was happening.”

“Your pick-ups? What are you doing to them? You’ve found me already, you don’t need them.”

“You know what’s kind of a nice surprise? When you’re buying something from a vending machine, and it drops an extra item,” she said. “That’s you,” she pointed at Jerri. “You’re an extra box of cookies. You want to know what’s being done to them?” the woman asked. She walked around the bed and sat next to Jerri. The girl did not move an inch; she did not want to let the woman know she made her uncomfortable. “Nothing really, they’re going to be held, very comfortably by the way, as prisoners. Until we kill them.” Jerri’s eyes went wide.

“Don’t worry though,” the woman said and placed a hand on Jerri’s shoulder. “You’re special and you get treated differently.” Jerri relaxed slightly. Part relief, part acceptance.

“You’re not going to kill me?” she asked with a weak whisper.

“Of course we are,” the woman said. “But your stay will be a bit less comfortable than theirs. You’re special after all. I still want to find out why.”

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